The governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, begins an unofficial visit to North Korea amid increased tensions following North Korea's shelling of a South Korean island last month.
The State Department has said Richardson is not delivering a message to North Korea for the U.S. government.
However, Richardson, who has made more than half a dozen unofficial trips to North Korea, has said he expects to be given a message by officials in Pyongyang.
Richardson is traveling to North Korea following talks in China, the North's sole major ally.
Meanwhile today, South Korea's military said that in the coming days, South Korean troops will hold a live-fire artillery drill on Yeonpyeong Island, where four people were killed when the island was shelled by North Korea last month.
The South Korean military has faced strong criticism for its perceived feeble response to the artillery attack.
compiled from agency reports